6 success strategies for keeping seasonal young workers healthy and safe

May 05, 2016

Young golf course workerGolf may be a pastime for millions of Canadians, but it's serious business for ClubLink. The company owns and operates 54.5 18-hole equivalent championship and eight nine-hole academy courses in Ontario, Quebec and Florida.

Given the nature of the business, most employees are seasonal - about 4000, or roughly 11 for every 1 permanent employee. Virtually all seasonal employees are young workers, many still in high school. They work front of house (food and beverage) and back of house (kitchen), maintain the turf (greenskeeping), and provide golf services.

WSPS Network News recently spoke with ClubLink health and safety specialist Julie Iantorno about how the corporation maintains a consistently strong health and safety culture given its youthful and constantly changing workforce. Out of our conversation arose six success strategies - just in time for Ministry of Labour's annual young and new worker blitz, taking place this year from July 18 to September 2.

1. Choose the right medium for communication

"Each young worker is more tech-savvy than the next," says Iantorno, so ClubLink has posted all of its safe operating procedures online and uses social media to share ideas and thoughts. "This is where they go for information these days."

2. Implement comprehensive prevention policies and practices

"We have controls in place for a range of hazards," says Iantorno. For instance, weather conditions can trigger a number of controls. "We have measures so that no one plays golf or works during thunderstorms. On days when heat stress is a hazard, we limit the amount and type of work people are doing, provide multiple breaks and lots of water, and ensure workers are wearing appropriate clothing."

3. Start training early

In Iantorno's experience, "Young workers are eager, want to learn, and want to do a good job." The training process starts with online health and safety awareness training that workers complete before their first day at work. This suits both learners and ClubLink. "Managers can track employees' progress and make sure they've completed the required training before work begins." Once on site, workers also receive thorough job-and hazard-specific training. As well, managers conduct pre-shift meetings in which they discuss important issues for that day, including health and safety. This may involve anything from a near miss that might have occurred the day before to weather conditions.

4. Supervise and mentor them

"In turf operations, for example, young workers are always paired up with more experienced workers. Most of our departments also work in teams, with a key lead for each team working with them or in close proximity. So, they would have people checking in with them, as well as have radio and visual contact with others." Some seasonal workers eventually become managers, which means they understand firsthand what new hires and returning workers need to know, and how best to communicate it."

5. Motivate them

A range of opportunities exists in each work area. "Many seasonal workers come back every year to more senior positions as they continue through college or university. For instance, first year workers in the turf department may perform course maintenance work, such as raking bunkers and picking up garbage. Returning workers may progress to jobs where they can learn to use such equipment as leaf blowers and walking mowers. In the kitchen, new workers may start as dishwashers and progress to line cooks."

6. Keep them engaged

Engaging all employees is a ClubLink priority. From a safety perspective, this may take the form of encouraging questions and engaging them in conversations about prevention plans, safe operating procedures, and in joint health and safety committee activities. "Young workers often bring a different perspective, which can take the form of innovative ideas that they're very willing to share - as long as someone asks!"

How WSPS can help you with your young and new workers